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'Clemente Effect' has local touch

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Ringgold North teacher Joe Ravasio, left, poses with Vera Clemente, the widow of Roberto Clemente, during a visit to the Clementes' home in Puerto Rico five years ago.

When ESPN airs its latest full length documentary. The Clemente Effect, on Sunday, there will certainly be a local flavor in the air.

The film, which deals with the life accomplishments and struggles of the late Pirate star and Hall of Famer, will be shown 4:30 p.m. on ESPN.

A segment of the movie will include taping that was done at Ringgold Elementary School North in November.

RESN teacher Joe Ravasio spearheaded the effort to bring the film crew to the school because of his long-standing interest in the life of Clemente.

That interest led him to visit Clemente Park, a sports complex built in Puerto Rico. During that visit, he was able to meet with Clemente's widow, Vera, and two of his sons.

“I went there about five years ago because I wanted to see just what Major League Baseball put together there in (Clemente's) honor. I wanted to see that ball park,” Ravasio said. “While I was there, I met with Vera and two of her sons. We had a nice talk and she invited me up to their home for lunch and I spent some time visiting. It was a memorable experience.”

Ravasio also met with the family three years ago when they were at California University as part of a museum exhibit there for Clemente.

Clemente died in a tragic plane crash New Year's Eve 1972 trying to bring supplies to earthquake ravaged Nicaragua. His death happened just months after he got his 3,000th and last career hit.

Ravasio said he is friends with Laura Magone, who works in the communications business and did some work for Duquesne University.

He said that she contacted ESPN about Ravasio's relationship with the Clementes and when ESPN agreed to come to the school, Ravasio thought it was a better idea to feature the school, faculty and students instead of himself.

“We had Roberto Clemente Day and every grade level at the school put together its own theme based on either the Pirates, Clemente or Puerto Rico,” Ravasio said. “Everyone did a tremendous job. It was really nice and when ESPN came there to film, things went really well.

“I'm not sure how much of what they taped will be in the movie, but I saw a trailer on it and it looked pretty good.”

Ravasio said ESPN spent time talking to two of the school's teachers, Katie Kline and Earl Gilpin, because other Clemente connections.

Kline's father was a plumber at Forbes Field and Clemente gave him a baseball bat. Gilpin had a game jersey from a minor league team Clemente played for when he was in the Dodgers' organization before the Pirates obtained him.

“I'm really excited to see the finished product, to see the story they tell about Roberto Clemente and how much of an effect their visit to our school had on the project,” Ravasio said.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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